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Speaking Up to Improve Skills: A Gold Girl Story

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Emily Cai of Kingsport wanted to create opportunities for students to develop and strengthen their public speaking and communication skills. She started the Kingsport Gavel Club and was named a 2021 Gold Award from Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians for her project.

Gold Award Girl Scouts are high schoolers who address issues they’re passionate about by planning and implementing a project that produces lasting change in the community and beyond. It is the Girl Scouts’ highest and most prestigious honor.

Emily understood that kids are not often comfortable with public speaking even though it is an important skill to have throughout one’s lifetime. She wanted to help children improve their skills in order to prepare them for both college and future jobs.

Emily was introduced to Kingsport’s Wednesday Orators Toastmasters Club, a division of Toastmasters International, when she attended one of the meetings with her mom, who is a member, and the wheels started turning.

Through nearly 90 hours of work, Emily pursued and obtained certification from Toastmasters International, built a website, recruited club officers and members, made informational and instructional videos, and created marketing materials, including a flyer.

She set a goal to get five members and successfully recruited twenty, which was a feat considering her project took place during COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. She quickly learned how to set and conduct meetings via Zoom since in-person meetings were not possible. The Gavel Club provided a virtual space for teenagers who were isolated at home during the pandemic, when most school club activities had been suspended. 

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The Gavel Club had to meet over Zoom due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

Although she created the program at her high school, Dobyns-Bennett, the Kingsport Gavel Club is open to anyone 18 years old and under in the Tri-Cities region.

She even had an interview and subsequent story in the Kingsport Times News in which she shared: “The Gavel Club is all about improvement, not about competition.”

While completing her Gold Award project, Emily overcame learning curves to adopt technology and build a website; she conquered her nerves about public speaking, and she learned that she could accomplish more that she thought possible while honing her delegation skills. These valuable learnings will surely benefit her, and her efforts will benefit the community, for years to come. 

Congratulations, Emily!  Visit to learn more about the Girl Scouts.    

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Supplies for the Gavel Club members.